With spring just around the corner, it's the time of year for beginning new things, which got us thinking back to where gaming started for us. (Plus, in James' case, the recently revealed Sonic 2 film poster brought his experience flooding back).
There we were, bright eyed and bushy tailed, blinking as we stepped into the light of what this hobby could be. So we thought we'd share our stories of what was the catalyst for this grandiose moment with you all.
What about you? What was that game that made you think "yes, this is something I could see myself doing a bit"?
Grand Theft Auto III | Chris
Though GTA III released in 2001 (and I already considered myself a gamer at this point) it was a title which changed the gaming landscape for good. Loading up for the first time left me in awe, it was a visual treat like no other. The massive (by early 2000's standards) 3D open world felt vibrant and alive in a way that no game had previously managed.
Even the smaller touches, like the satirical talk radio, add to the feeling that this world existed before I came along and will still exist when I'm gone. The best had been bettered, there's a new yardstick and nothing will be the same again.
GTA III not only reinvigorated my love of gaming but it was a taste of what was to come. I had been made aware of what could now be achieved and the possibilities seemed endless. It wasn't just the aesthetics; the variety of missions, the scope of the narrative and the gameplay itself were new to me, despite the many years of gaming I had clocked up.
Since then, the series has continued to grow and evolve but the biggest step was the almighty leap from 2D to 3D. GTA V deserves the (almost universally) perfect review scores, and I still jump into the online mode from time to time, yet it lacks that same feeling of wonder I got from discovering something special for the first time.
Super Mario World | Liam
Like Chris, there’s multiple points in my gaming career that could be considered pivotal moments. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare got me into online multiplayer and into HD gaming in general (I’d been playing a Wii until that point). Perfect Dark was probably the first time I’d really got into a game’s story, setting and characters, while Ocarina of Time properly felt like a big adventure.
But I’m going to go with the earliest game I remember being into, which is Super Mario World. This game had already been out for several years before I got to play it sometime in the mid-90s but was an ever present in my household thereafter.
This was the first time a game had looked and felt like a premium product. It was like playing a living cartoon, with bright, bold visuals and a catchy, iconic soundtrack. I personally never got much further than the second island, but I remember a real sense of awe whenever one of my older brothers reached a new and previously unseen level.
I’m sure games would have continued to interest me had I not played Super Mario World, but it probably marked the point where I realised they fascinated me.
What title got you into gaming?
PlayStation surprised us with a new State of Play this week, with a “special focus” on games coming from Japanese publishers. There were a flurry of new announcements and updates in the show’s 20-minute runtime.
Square Enix in particular showed off lots of games, giving Japanese gaming fans plenty to chew on. We’ve put our heads together to pick out our favourites. What was your highlight from the show?
Returnal Ascension and Forspoken | James
With a Japanese focus, it wasn’t a surprise to see Square Enix crop up at this show, but the sheer number of titles the publisher is working on is impressive, even outside its usual wheelhouse.
Since I picked Forspoken as my most anticipated game this year, I was excited for an update, and we were treated to a short trailer, interestingly with “some camera angles adjusted for trailer use” – a disclaimer I haven’t noticed before.
It certainly shows off some more of the scale you’d expect from the Final Fantasy XV developer, and while it wasn’t a gameplay trailer, the traversal animations and magic effects are still looking very cool.
A few other things looked worthy of an interested eyebrow raise, such as the intrigue of zombie-game-with-dinosaurs-instead-of-zombies Exoprimal, but largely the genres touched on aren’t necessarily my bag.
To my surprise though, the most exciting bit of news was actually an update to an existing release - Returnal.
When Returnal first debuted it grabbed my attention immediately, but with its high difficulty I’ve been too timid to jump into the haunting sci-fi adventure. The State of Play brought news of co-op being added with the Ascension update, which could bring in me and others who’ve been wanting to try it out.
What was your State of Play highlight?
While it isn’t a significant anniversary year, it’s hard to deny Pokémon is on a hot streak at the moment. From the hype surrounding new MOBA-style release Pokémon Unite last year and the continued reinvigoration of Pokémon Go with lots of regular updates, there’s been plenty to draw in all sorts of new players.
On top of that, we’ve seen an excellent remake in Pokémon Shining Pearl and Brilliant Diamond, and a fresh take on the formula altogether with Pokémon Legends Arceus. So what more could Game Freak and The Pokémon Company have in store for us?
The most recent Pokémon Presents presentation highlighted plenty of nuggets of newness bound for these games, and even new ones to look forward to. Once you’ve munched on the Rare Candy that is our highlights from the show, leave us your own in the comments.
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s starters and world | James
Although the live-action reveal was a fun change of pace, it’s a little disappointing to step back to a more traditional Pokémon game format for Scarlet and Violet after the freedom of Arceus, the thought of having a few brand new pocket monsters to journey with is exciting.
A crop of brand new starters sees a new cat-inspired ‘mon, a duck wearing a hat as well as a tiny crocodile (or Spragitato, Quaxly and Fuecoco as the game refers to them), and they all look interesting. Giving tiny croc Fuecoco a fire type could lead to some interesting signature moves and who doesn’t find cats adorable?
The starters’ names and the aesthetic of the as-yet unnamed new region give a strong vibe of Spain. In particular, in one of the town’s you notice a tall building – marked with signature pokéball, naturally – which is reminiscent of Barcelona’s famous cathedral Sagrada Familia.
A different region is always interesting to explore, particularly one as colourful as this, and from the gameplay we’ve seen it looks as though the Wild Area introduced in Sword and Shield, or possibly the entire map outside cities, will show pokémon in the overworld.
Hopefully we’ll see Gamefeak continue to push the quality of life elements improved in the last few games, so that it feels like a significant step forward from the last traditional, non-remake release.
The internet may have fallen for Fuecoco but we all know Spragitato is really the best of the three.
Arceus trainer battle update | Liam
The highlight for me was the Pokémon Legends Arceus update announcement, mostly because it has motivated me to get back into the game. After a few days of catching ‘mon every evening, my time in Hisui has dropped off over the past week but having seen what’s coming I’m ready to give it another go.
I’m mostly interested in the new Training Grounds battles that are being added, as trainer battles are something I’ve missed so far in Arceus. There’s been a few, and perhaps there’ll be more to come in the content I’ve yet to unlock, but so far the game feels like it’s lacking in traditional encounters so hopefully this update, which includes matches tailored to your chosen Pokémon, will scratch that itch.
Elsewhere, the show motivated me to try some of the other spin-off Pokémon games that are knocking around. I’ve previously dismissed most of them outright, but some of the titles, especially Pokémon Unite, look worth a try.
The real highlight, however, was probably the animatronic Pikachu lurking in the background behind The Pokémon Company CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara like some sort of shadowy shareholder. Perhaps sentient Pokémon toys are the one’s really in charge? It would explain why there’s been so many games coming out lately.
Great balls of electricity!
What was your Pokémon Presents highlight?